Georgia is nearly twice the size of Azerbaijan with 69,
700 square kilometers, bordered by Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and
the Black Sea. With nearly 5 million people, 70% are ethnic Georgians practicing
Georgian orthodoxy. Georgians tend to be conservative and very friendly
and hospitable. The Georgian language is one of the oldest languages in
the world, with it's own beautiful script.
Last year, Georgia was on the brink of yet another potential
civil war, when Shevardnadze peacefully stepped down and has been replaced
by a 36 year old young, liberal minded President, Mikhael Saakashvili. He
has his work cut out for him after decades of corruption and nepotism countrywide.
Over 50% of the country works in agriculture, with wine, tea and citrus
fruits the dominant crops.
Georgia is a beautiful country with a Mediterranean climate
including mountains, lakes, rolling hills, green pastures and some subtropical
pockets. The food and wine are outstanding, the quaint little stone villages
reminded me of European towns. I can imagine a countryside filled with bed
Georgia is not exempt from tumult, with some difficult
times in the early 1990's during transition. The disputed territory of Abkhazia
has left Georgia without a railroad line to the north, creating a need to
divert trade east before going north to Moscow. The only other option is
a small road through the mountains, where Chechen rebels hide out. The capital,
Tbilisi, is one of the oldest cities in the region, with 400-500 year old
churches and buildings built right into the stone walls along the river.
In 2002, I worked with young entrepreneurs who started
the first frozen fruit/vegetable processing plant in Georgia. The abundance
of rich lands is unfortunately outweighed by the collapse of the collective
Soviet farming system. There are so many individual farmers with no capital
and most land goes underused. Most farmers plant cheap easy crops to bring
in the minimum, but reliable, profits to sustain themselves and their families.
This startup was working hard to develop a vertically integrated system
of seed purchase, planting, harvesting, freezing and marketing a variety
of crops, familiar and new.
Georgia's wine industry is one of the oldest in the world,
and their lively culture revolves around the consumption of wine and making
toasts on all occasions. Experts from California as well as other countries
have gone to Georgia to advise and develop their industry for export. There
are some excellent wines that have international recognition and are gaining
in prestige worldwide. Their largest export market is, of course, Russia.
You can find Georgian wines at local Russian stores in America, but my dream
is to see fabulous Sapareli or Mukuzani wines at Trader Joe's for under
$8.00 a bottle! Any venture capitalists out there?!
Statistics, map and flag come from the CIA world fact book.
You can visit their web site at http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/fact